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How Much Do Nurses Make?

Updated on August 28, 2013

Guide to How Much Money Nurses Can Make

This is a question that has shown up with increased frequency as strong demand for nurses in all segments of the health care industry has sparked interest in pursuing various nursing careers. Landing a job as a nurse can make you enough money to live a stable and secure future with plenty of opportunities for advancement with experience.

Exactly how much you can make will depend on a number of factors including the specialty you choose and the current demand for qualified nurses in your geographic region. The following guide will give you a good starting estimate for nursing salaries according to specialty and level of licensure or certification. Keep in mind that factors such as employee performance and tenure can at times shift rates of pay outside of the normal range.

CNA Salary

CNA – A Certified Nursing Assistant is a basic entry-level nursing position with duties that involve assisting patients with routine tasks, helping with meal service, and changing linens. A CNA position is a good way to get started in the health care field and evaluate whether a career as a nurse is something that would be a good fit for you. The limited responsibility and training required result in a salary that is typical to entry-level work in many other fields.

Depending on the employer and the number of years of experience, a CNA can expect to make between $9.50 and $12.45 per hour. This equates to approximately $19,000 to $27,000 per year based on a full-time work schedule. With the pay scale being based on an hourly rate, this does create an opportunity for overtime pay of as much as $18 per hour when it is available.

LPN Salary

LPN – A job as a Licensed Practical Nurse or LPN is the next step up in the level of job responsibility and corresponding pay scale for nurses. A Licensed Practical Nurse is responsible for administering patient care for sick, injured, or disabled patients in a clinical setting. LPNs will typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, or private medical practices. Working under the supervision of a registered nurse, job responsibilities include attending to general care, administering medication, and recording and observing patient condition.

Advancement from a CNA to an LPN requires addition schooling through an approved LPN program and passing a state licensing exam. The increased level of both training required and role leads to a higher salary range. A position at this level can expect to make between $15 and $23 an hour. Working a full 40 hour week at this rate yields an annual compensation of between $31,000 and $45,000. This is another area where overtime may be available ranging from $21 to $30 per hour. This would represent extra money on top of the quoted annual estimate.

RN Salary

RN – When most people envision a job as a nurse, a Registered Nurse is what comes to mind. Eventually becoming a Registered Nurse is one of the most common goals for individuals who are getting started in the field of nursing. An RN has a significant role in patient care and works under the supervision of one or more medical doctors. In addition to being responsible for treating patient’s medical conditions and educating them on various health related topics, RNs also supervise LPNs and nursing assistants.

The level of pay at this level becomes significantly more diverse as a Registered Nurse has the opportunity to specialize in a number of different areas of care. As a general care nurse, you can expect to make between $22 and $32 per hour. On an annual basis, this would equate to between $46,000 and $67,000. As you can see, the range starts to widen here significantly. The lifestyle you can support while making nearly $70,000 per year would be quite a bit different than what you would get if you were making $46,000.

The primary factors that will influence the pay scale here are the number of years of experience and the level of education and continuing education you have completed. As with the nursing jobs already discussed, overtime pay can also play a role here in increasing your total compensation. In fact, it starts to become quite a bit more lucrative at this level with rates reaching as high as $45 for hours put in above a full 40 hour work week.

Other Specialties

Think your earning as a nurse are capped at this point? No need to worry, there are still plenty of opportunities to challenge yourself and increase your earning power even further. Here are a few examples:

  1. Emergency Room Nurse (RN) – The register rings in at between $25 and $33 per hour here provided that you are willing to accept the round the clock schedule and increased level of stress that comes along with this kind of fast-paced and high pressure environment. The reward however is making between $50,500 and $74,800 per year.
  2. Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) – This specialty closely resembles what you would expect to see from a doctor including counseling patients, conducting complete physicals, and prescribing medication under the supervision of a physician. You may also assist in surgeries or more complex medical procedures. Here you can start out making over $65,000 per year with a maximum of around $90,000. This positions usually transition from an hourly rate to a salary and the opportunity for earning overtime pay is replaced with a bonus plan and profit-sharing. This can add as much as $10,000 to $15,000 to the total bottom line compensation.
  3. Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – These positions require extensive training and a lengthy educational process that often involves waiting lists and ongoing recertification. Becoming a CRNA requires first obtaining your RN and then moving on from there. While breaking into this specialty is extremely challenging, it is also one of the highest paying areas in this segment of health care. Average salaries start at $100,000 and after bonus pay and profit-sharing can reach as high as $200,000 for an experienced CRNA.

Key Earnings Factors to Consider

If you are considering a career path that involves one of the specialties listed above, keep in mind that this information should serve as a general guide to what you can expect to make. For more detailed information, it is recommended that you research jobs in your specific area to get a better idea of what to expect in terms of compensation.

When evaluating a potential job offer, be sure to consider the value of benefits and retirement plans when comparing similar jobs. Be realistic and understand that someone fresh from school or just starting at a new company will likely begin at the lower end of the range with increases based on tenure and performance.

One of the best ways to increase your earning power and make more money is to advance your education. In many cases, you can look at online LPN programs, LPN to RN programs, or BSN programs to improve your qualifications while you continue to work and gain valuable experience. One of the great things about nursing careers is that you have the unique ability to earn while you learn. This can help keep a lid on student debt and ensure that you are making consistent progress towards your ultimate career goals.


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    • jagged81 profile image


      6 years ago from New Mexico

      In the end it has got to come down to more than just THE money, you won't make it if you don't care. Great information!

    • profile image

      Jordan D 

      7 years ago

      what increaes or lowers your pay??

    • profile image

      Richard J 

      7 years ago

      This just made my day, I wan't to be a nurse soooooo bad, I don't know why I always wanted to be a nurse but I hope I become one in the next 2 years!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      this is real good info guys good job:)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      ur cool

    • gajanis786 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very good information....yes I agree with all these salary figures here as I personally know few persons making this type of income.....thanks.

    • annaroo profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice hub. My mom was a nurse for 20-some years before deciding to become a nursing professing and teaching those who want to become nurses. Surprisingly, this was a step down in earnings! Thanks to many hiring freezes in hospitals around the country, many new nurses struggle to find jobs (despite the nurse shortage!). A good way around this, and around debt from nursing school, is to become a nurse for the military. Thanks for the article!

    • Phillyfreeze69 profile image


      8 years ago

      I work at a 76 bed Pediatric facillity for medically fragile children and we employed CNA, LPN, RN Nurses and aids. Your information has been helpful(as you know discussing salaries is frowned upon in most facilities). We also have two DON's one is clinical and the other is administrative in their duties. I can probablly guess what they earn. Thanks

    • katiem2 profile image


      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Great information, my eleven year old just recently told me she wants to be a nurse, she's gifted student and until now has wanted to be a doctor, I will share this fantastic information with her. Very good and complete guide and very well written. Thanks and Peace :)


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